Wednesday November 21st, 2001
Greetings from the “Jungle Team”
All of a sudden a bus pulled in. We jumped aboard for the trip into town where we needed to check in with the authorities. The Federal Police and Customs had to clear us out of Brazil as this is the last major town in the region before the border between Venezuela and Columbia.
The biggest item on the agenda is to clear all the filming and expedition equipment we have brought with us from Seamaster. The paperwork for this alone amounts to a small suitcase full of documents.
A 40-minute bus trip from Camanaus to the small customs office in the centre of Sao Gabriel, and an hour and a half later, we were still shuffling paper and the lady customs officer was headed out of town until Friday. We would have to come back.
We set about laying plans for the next few days until our 11am Friday appointment to complete the clearance process. To be more efficient, should we move into one of the town’s hotels and avoid the long bus trip to and fro?
Miguel proposed another option - tracking down the local river pilot to see if it was feasible to get “Iguana” up through the rapids from Camanaus to the centre of Sao Gabriel, allowing us to remain on board. After a short dinghy trip with Alistair, Miguel reported back that we would give it a try in the morning.
At sun-up, the pilot was aboard and off we went. We made all of 50 metres from the bank before “Iguana” came to a grinding halt. We had run aground on a rock. Not a good start. It took an hour of hard graft by the full team, plus the assistance of a ferry, to raise the stern and ease “Iguana” clear. A quick dive showed no damage to the hull, so we started our push up the rapids.
With the river contracting dramatically, we weaved our way through narrow rock passages containing whirlpools, racing currents and eddies. Quite hair-raising to say the least, especially as full engine power was required to hold the speed of 2-3 knots. At one stage, the flow increased and “Iguana” was forced backwards. Miguel looked rather pale and concerned and muttered: “This is very dangerous my friend”.
We had been amazed by the skill of the pilotage coming up river to date, but the elderly chap reading the waters before us had us bewildered. Miguel explained that these rapids were the only section of the river he has ever piloted and this job had been handed down through generations of father to son.
Two and a half hours later, we finally made it to Sao Gabriel. We parked “Iguana” on the main beach of the town and settled into the chores for the day.
Sao Gabriel is a beautiful oasis right at the north-western edge of Brazil, surrounded by river, mountains and jungle. We have come a long way since entering the Amazonas nearly two months ago and the excitement is building as we finalise our preparations for the next leg of the journey.
Until our next log I hope you are enjoying our journey as much as we are
Best wishes from,
“The Jungle Team”